The Netherlands To Crack Down on Nitrous Oxide Gas

Whip-its aka laughing gas aka nitrous oxide is no longer on the menu for partygoers in The Netherlands.

Fed up with party companies renting out tanks of nitrous oxide and providing balloons and other equipment, leaders in The Netherlands are taking action.

The high provided by nitrous oxide—aka laughing gas or whip-its—will no longer be tolerated in The Netherlands under a bill proposed recently. Until recently, Dutch party hosts could call up a laughing gas company and rent equipment as if it were renting a photo booth.

In a November 14 briefing to MPs, Dutch Health Minister Bruno Bruins is leading a bill that would compel retailers and wholesalers to invoke a voluntary age limit for the sale of nitrous oxide canisters (whip-its), and to limit the number of canisters people can buy.

“The recreational use of laughing gas leads to enormous health risks,” State Secretary Van Ooijen (VWS) said in the briefing, translated on Google. “In addition, the safety of non-users is also at stake. We have seen enough reports in the news that terrible accidents have happened due to road users using laughing gas. In recent years, there has been a call from society to ban the recreational use of laughing gas. I am pleased that we can bring this ban into effect from January 1, 2023.”

Last June, The Volkskrant reported that dozens of companies have come out of the woodwork in The Netherlands selling and delivering laughing gas as a party drug—reportedly with names like Partygas and Lachgas Express. The companies provide the gas tanks as well as the balloons which are used to store hits of gas.

“The nitrous oxide ban helps the police enormously in enforcement. With the ban, having nitrous oxide with you—possession—in itself becomes a criminal offense,” said Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius (JenV), as translated from Google. “This allows the police to act sooner. Now that is only possible when someone uses laughing gas and causes nuisance or dangerous situations in traffic. With the ban, the police will soon be able to take immediate action if someone possesses non-professional laughing gas and has balloons with gas bottles in the car. Hopefully we can prevent accidents this way.”

Nitrous Oxide for Recreational Purposes

Get a load of this: according to High Times writer Nico Escondido, High Times founder Thomas King Forçade conceived the idea for the top pot magazine with a group of friends over a tank of nitrous oxide. As Amsterdam was the birthplace of Cannabis Cup, it’s likely those tanks were present at early events.

But leaders hope the move will make roads in The Netherlands safer. According to road safety monitor TeamAlert, laughing gas has played a role in 1,800 accidents across The Netherlands over the past three years. “Almost two a day, figures that really shocked us,” Maartje Oosterink of TeamAlert told AD newspaper earlier this month.

The dangers are legitimate for the ignorant. Unlike weed, too much nitrous oxide can actually kill you.

People who use nitrous oxide intended for technical purposes and intended as a food additive are exempt from the ban. However, the purchase, sale, possession, and handing of nitrous oxide in gas cylinders to private individuals will be prohibited beginning on January 1, 2023.

Manufacturers and wholesalers of medical nitrous oxide in The Netherlands must apply for an opium exemption on the basis of Articles 6 and 8 of the Opium Act. The small ampoules of nitrous oxide commonly used in the catering industry for whipped cream remain permitted, but may not be resold to third parties. 

In the coming weeks, the final details of the ban will be ironed out.

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